Early results from Wednesday's vote show the ruling African National Congress (ANC) retaining control of the municipalities it has traditionally held. But the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has made big advances.
Predictions that people disenchanted with the ANC would either abstain or spoil their ballots in haven’t materialised but the DA is delighted at its improvement from 14 per cent five years ago to 23 per cent this time.
“It’s very good for democracy,” DA leader Helen Zille told RFI. “This is the election that will turn things around for us.”
Her party has swept Cape Town, retained Midrand, a rural council south of Johannesburg, and gained the picturesque Southern Cape resort of Kynsna.
It has also won symbolically important seats in traditionally black townships like Alexandra, Khatlehong and Pimville, near Johannesburg.
The gains for the ANC and the DA are at the expense of the smaller parties.
They have also profited from the higher voter turnout in excess of 54 per cent, which is a healthy jump from the 48 per cent in the previous mid-term elections.